Liberty Cup Keys to the Game
The Liberty Cup honors Columbia & Fordham alumni who died on 9/11
Fordham Rams at Columbia Lions --- Liberty Cup IX
September 18, 2010
Location: Robert K. Kraft Field at Wien Stadium on the Baker Athletic Complex, West 218th Street and Broadway, New York, NY.
Kickoff Time: 12:30pm
Gametime Weather Forecast: Partly cloudy, 75 degrees
The Spread: Columbia is favored by 6 points.
Columbia Game Notes
Fordham Game Notes
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HOW TO GET TO THE GAME, (Jake’s preferred methods):
By Subway, take the Uptown A train to the final stop at 207th Street. Exit from the 211th Street exit and walk up to 218th Street.
By Car, do whatever you can to avoid the Cross Bronx Expressway.
Full getting to the game details here.
Keys to the Game:
1) Stop the Fordham Run
Columbia can’t let the Rams continue with their strong running start to the 2010 season. The Rams are averaging a whopping 246 yards rushing per game so far.
But Ram Head Coach Tom Masella has been extremely inconsistent with his game strategies during his five year tenure on Rose Hill. But he would have to be certifiably crazy not to feature his very deep and talented running attack against the Lions tomorrow.
That starts with senior Xavier Martin, who has killed Columbia… when the Rams gave him the ball that is.
Masella didn’t give Martin the ball very much last year, and the Lions won the game in the Bronx.
Masella didn’t give Martin the ball until the end of the game in 2008 and that’s when the Rams overcame a nice Columbia lead and squeaked out a win.
Masella gave Martin the ball all night in 2007 and the Rams won in a rout.
This year, Fordham has more weapons on the ground than just Martin. QB Blake Wayne, a junior college transfer, is rushing for 81 yards per game. And the other tailback, Darryl Whiting, is also dangerous.
But the Ram offensive line is still a question mark, and the Lions should have some opportunities to test it. Graduation hit that unit particularly hard.
The Columbia defensive line seems a little nicked up, especially with junior Owen Fraser not even appearing on the two-deep. But as Bruce Wood of the Big Green Alert Blog wrote yesterday, the depth charts are often not worth the paper they’re not printed on.
Whoever is playing on the front line, they will be tested. But help will be there with the returning Alex Gross and a rejuvenated Matt Moretto starring as linebackers. Also, you can expect a big year from MLB Nick Mistretta.
Stopping the run isn’t just the top key to this game, it’s the top key to the 2010 for Columbia.
2) Run the Ball with Authority
For some reason, the Lions running game didn’t work at all against Brown in the preseason scrimmage. The fact that QB Sean Brackett wasn’t playing was probably the biggest reason.
The left side, anchored 1st Team All Ivy LT Jeff Adams and bolstered by the strong Bob Hauschildt at LG, looks extremely solid. Adams and Hauschildt don't just come from the state of Illinois, they just about ARE the state of Illinois when they line up together. Adams is bigger and somehow even faster than he was last year. His off season training program was a super success.
But the right side of the Columbia offensive line needs to prove itself. Ian Quirk is back, and he’s been more than solid since he began starting at RG his sophomore year. As of now, the two-deep lists sophomore Scott Ward at the starting RT, but we’ll see. Dan Cohen was the projected starter there during the off season so I am not so sure he won’t actually be out there when the game really begins.
I expect the Lions to use the option run early and often. Brackett executed it better than any Ivy QB I’ve ever seen last season. It’s definitely a strength if the revamped O-line is up to the challenge.
The actual ball carriers look good. Brackett is the speediest QB in the league and he can be lethal if he starts avoiding hits a little better than last year. In most recent years, running backs Leon Ivery, Zack Kourouma, Nick Gerst, and Marcorus Garrett would each have been shoo-ins for the starting job on their own for Columbia. But this year, they’re all on the squad at once. That begs for the running by committee plan Coach Wilson has been talking about in preseason interviews.
But don’t be surprised if one runner really emerges in the first few weeks and starts becoming a truly featured back.
Either way, the Lions can’t win this game and can’t have a successful season without at least matching their running effectiveness of 2009.
3) Keep Brackett Healthy
Much of this burden will be on Brackett himself. He needs to be more like Fran Tarkenton and take fewer hits. He also needs to become more of a threat in the passing game.
Brackett actually threw the ball nicely last season, but you could tell his first instinct was to run on most plays in 2009.
Brackett has a much stronger arm than most fans realize and while Austin Knowlin is gone, he has a lot of receivers to chose from this season to spread the ball around. The best way to keep Brackett healthy is to let him throw the ball quick and short regularly to freeze the blitz and keep the action centered somewhere other than the pocket.
I think a key player in this regard is TE Andrew Kennedy. Andrew had a super season last year, but he needs to take the next step. If Brackett can rely on him to go from a 2-3 receptions per game receiver to a 5-6 receptions per game receiver or more, that will be a huge help.
4) Don’t Sleep on Caldwell and Skelton
Fordham has that great running attack, but Masella will definitely try to test the Lion secondary with weapons like WR Jason Caldwell and TE Stephen Skelton.
Caldwell already has 20 receptions this season and is clearly Wayne’s go-to guy. The talented and very tall Skelton hasn’t been getting into the mix much, but he’s ripe for a breakout game. Surely, he wants to prove he can be an attractive target for someone other than his brother, former Ram QB John Skelton.
5) Make the PAT’s and Have a Chance on the Short FG’s
Columbia doesn’t have to have a FG kicker with 85% accuracy from 45 yards out, (though that would be REAL nice), but they need to feel confident that the vast majority of kicks from 35 yards and closer will be good. PAT’s? Forget about it if the Lions can’t get better than 95% accuracy there.
Who knows how much better Columbia’s final record would have been if the kicking had been better? This season is a big test for the Lions and the coaching staff’s ability to make this better.